JPMorgan to help Russian Orphans Adapt to Society

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Oct. 4 – U.S. investment banking giant JPMorgan announced its first local project aimed to develop a new integrated approach to orphan social adaptation to society, local press reports.

In partnership with its philanthropy New Eurasia Foundation (NEF), JPMorgan is aiming to bring together noncommercial organizations, government bodies and corporate sponsors in a common framework to address the problem of socialization for young adults leaving institutional care.

Nicola Mackert, vice president of philanthropy and sponsorship at JPMorgan, said the program would create a forum for nongovernmental organizations and allow “these organizations to begin to look upward and outward as well as focusing on the immediate need.”

The project, characterized by the head of NEF Andrei Kortunov as a “targeted intellectual intervention,” would be nonpolitical and avoid attacks on a structure that is heavily skewed towards institutional, rather than family-based, care.

“If you’re looking at a tailored approach to an existing problem, you don’t have to take a stance on the system,” said Jeffrey Costello, JPMorgan’s Russia president.

“For the last four years we have taken a strategic view on Russia and the foundation, as we build out our business over the long term, is to make sure we’re doing our part for the local people,” he said.

According to data from the Ministry of Health and Social Development, more than 730,000 children in Russia either have no parents or have parents who have abandoned their children. Of this number, about 200,000 of them live in state orphanages and two-thirds of orphans, in fact, are “social orphans,” children taken from their birth family because of alcoholism, domestic violence or rejection by the parents.

At age 16, state support ends for children in an orphanage, and they must leave. With no decision-making skills, these orphans must find a job, an apartment, and cope on their own for the first time.

UNICEF’s Children at Risk report highlights that the greatest peril facing orphans in Russia is their entry into society at large. Their lack of preparation for life on their own was highlighted as the major cause of concern and calls the young people who leave state care the most vulnerable group.

Recent statistics show that only one out of 10 Russian orphans becomes a functional member of society. Orphanage “graduates” are highly vulnerable and often fail to make the transition to independent living, falling prey to drug addiction, prostitution or early death.

According to the company’s corporate responsibility report, JPMorgan has granted US$245,000 to NEF to design, test and introduce innovative methods and social technologies to facilitate the successful adaptation of orphans to independent living. The key objectives are to raise the qualifications and adaptation methodologies of 80 teachers and to engage 200 orphans in the development of new skills.

NEF’s long-term goal is to use recommendations of this program to contribute to the drafting of revised legislation on social integration of orphans.

J.P. Morgan was the first foreign bank to open a representative office in Moscow in 1973, the then capital city of Soviet Union, and was the first global custodian to offer Russian market entry to its clients in 1995. The firm’s leadership in Russia dates back to the 1920s, when Chase National Bank was the correspondent for the State Bank of the Soviet Union.

The firm currently has 180 employees in Moscow.

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